U.S. accuses all parties to Ethiopian conflict of committing war crimes

Archive – A boy with jerry cans of water in Amhara, Ethiopia. – SALLY HAYDEN / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally determined Monday that the armed forces of all parties to the Ethiopian conflict have committed war crimes.

»I have determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, (Amhara Region) forces, and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces committed atrocity crimes,» he said following the release of the State Department’s Human Rights Report 2022.

Blinken traveled to Ethiopia in the middle of this month on his first visit since the declaration of a truce in the devastating conflict in the Tigray region, where he met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda, who was recently elected president of the region.

»As I discussed with both sides during my visit, in order to build a lasting peace, there must be an acknowledgement of the atrocities committed by all parties, as well as accountability along with reconciliation,» Blinken explained.

Thus, the Secretary of State, who »condemned the atrocities», welcomed »the commitments to pursue transitional justice».

The conflict in northern Ethiopia was devastating,» he denounced, while listing a series of crimes such as the killing of civilians, sexual violence, forced displacement and ethnic attacks.

In this sense, he added that »many of these actions were not random or a mere by-product of the war. They were calculated and deliberate».

These steps — recognition, accountability, reconciliation — are key to breaking the cycle of ethnic and political violence that has gripped Ethiopia and prevented it from reaching its unlimited potential for so long,» Blinken said.

He therefore urged the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, as well as the TPLF, to hold those responsible to account. He offered Addis Ababa U.S. cooperation »as it honestly confronts the abuses of its past, accounts for the wrongs committed against its citizens, and moves toward a future of lasting peace.

The conflict in Tigray erupted in November 2020 following an attack by the TPLF on the army’s main base in Mekelle, after which the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive against the group.

The outbreak of fighting followed months of political and administrative tensions, including the TPLF’s refusal to recognize an electoral postponement and its decision to hold regional elections outside Addis Ababa.

The TPLF accused Abiy of whipping up tensions since his arrival to power in April 2018, when he became the first Oromo to accede to office. Until then, the TPLF had been the dominant force within Ethiopia’s ruling coalition since 1991, the ethnically-supported Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The group opposed Abiy’s reforms, which it saw as an attempt to undermine its influence.